NCSL Juvenile Justice Quarterly Newsletter

State Policy and Legislative News

The Maine Supreme Court modified the Rules of Unified Criminal Procedure on Oct. 19 to prohibit the use of restraints on juveniles in courtrooms throughout Maine. The new rule states that the use of restraints is prohibited unless a judge issues a court order. The order may not be issued unless there are no less restrictive alternatives reasonably available to maintain order and safety in the courtroom, or to prevent the risk of flight. The Maine Legislature considered and passed a similar measure in 2015, but it was vetoed by the governor.

The Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill 618, ending the practice of automatically holding young people who are charged as adults in adult jail. Governor Larry Hogan signed the bill in May and the new law went into effect Oct. 1. In Maryland, young people between the ages of 14-17 are automatically charged as an adult if they are accused of one of 33 offenses. Many of these youth have the opportunity to ask for a transfer hearing to send their case from adult court to juvenile court. House Bill 618 requires that the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services hold every transfer eligible juvenile automatically charged as an adult in juvenile detention centers and not adult jails while they await their transfer hearing. Exceptions are made when a young person is released on bail, recognizance or other conditions of pretrial release, when there is no capacity at a Department of Juvenile Service Detention Center, or when a judge finds that detention in a secure juvenile facility would pose a risk to the child or others. 

New Jersey passed a number of provisions in 2015 reforming the state’s waiver and transfer laws. Senate Bill 2003 increases the minimum age at which a youth can be tried as an adult from 14 to 15. It also limits the transfer and incarceration of youth under the age of 18, instead of the current lower limit of 16, to only those committing the most serious and violent of crimes. The bill also makes it more difficult for youth to be transferred to adult court, requiring that prosecutors must submit written analysis on the reasons for the transfer, which is then granted only at the discretion of a judge.

On the Fiscal Front

A new report from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) shows that juvenile arrests in the sunshine state continue to decline. Statewide, juvenile arrests dropped another 4 percent in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, making an overall 32 percent decline in the last five years. Florida officials credit DJJ’s multi-year reform initiative—outlined in the state’s “Roadmap to System Excellence.” The plan champions directing resources to the programs, services, and treatments proven most effective, realigning existing residential resources to community-based programs, increasing the availability of transitional services and using effective assessment tools.

Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina Daly said, “DJJ is committed to providing the right services for Florida’s youth while also keeping our focus on public safety. The statistics from the latest delinquency report show that the transformation of our juvenile justice system in recent years is producing results, and, most importantly, producing better outcomes for the youth we serve.”

State In Focus

New York State has seen three major juvenile justice reforms in December 2015.

First, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and New York State announced a settlement agreement that will comprehensively overhaul solitary confinement in New York State, one of the largest prison systems in the country. The agreement results from the 2012 class-action lawsuit, Peoples v. Fischer, brought by the NYCLU that challenged the system-wide policies and practices governing solitary confinement in New York State prisons. In 2014, the NYCLU and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision reached an “interim” settlement agreement under Peoples that provided immediate protections to those—including youth, pregnant women and developmentally disabled prisoners—who are most vulnerable to solitary’s most devastating effects. This settlement builds on the interim agreement and is expected to reduce the solitary population even further by eliminating solitary confinement as punishment for all minor violations and limiting the duration of most solitary sentences.

Second, the New York General Assembly passed Assembly Bill 6430, which prohibits the use of restraints during the transport of all pregnant inmates at state and local correctional facilities, and within eight weeks after the delivery or pregnancy outcome, except in the most extraordinary of circumstances. Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law on Dec. 22. Prior to this bill being passed, restraints could be used on pregnant inmates during weekly medical appointments and to trips between prisons, which could take more than 10 hours. In addition to the shackling provision, the bill also prohibits the presence of any correctional staff in the delivery room unless requested by medical staff or the inmate giving birth, requires training of all correctional staff on this policy and institutes annual detailed reporting of all instances in which officers deem restraints necessary.

The sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman Nick Perry (D) said, "Even while paying for crimes they committed, women are still entitled to be treated as human beings and today New York makes a big statement with a clear message that we will respect the human rights of the pregnant women in our prison system.”

Finally, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new program to pardon as many as 10,000 people who were convicted of nonviolent felonies as teenagers, provided they have stayed out of trouble with the law.

Under this program, the pardons are available to anyone who was convicted of a nonviolent felony or misdemeanor committed at age 16 or 17, as long as the applicants have spent at least 10 years without a subsequent conviction, are employed, looking for a job or going to school, and are paid up on their taxes. These pardons will not expunge a person’s criminal record, according to administration officials, but will instead provide legal relief for anyone barred by law from certain occupations, including jobs in schools, construction, nursing homes, real estate brokerages and security companies.

Applicants who are subsequently convicted of an offense could have their pardon rescinded.

Juvenile Justice Publications

The MacArthur Foundation released a new report in December entitled Juvenile Justice in a Developmental Framework: A 2015 Status Report. The document explores advances in the understanding of adolescent development and how it has guided progress in juvenile justice reform. In accord with the Supreme Court’s recognition of a basic principle—that children are different from adults, and the justice systems that deal with them must be shaped by those differences—state after state has to some degree adopted developmentally appropriate legislation. The new report defines developmentally appropriate best practices in nine key juvenile justice policy areas and examines which states (and the District of Columbia) have, as of mid-2015, incorporated those practices into their juvenile justice statutes. 

The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ), released a new report, Zero Tolerance: How States Comply with PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard which explores how states house youth under 18 in prisons in the new age of PREA compliance and enforcement. The report highlights that despite the official implementation of PREA, some states and institutions still permit the housing of youth in adult facilities. 

The National Center for Juvenile Justice has released new state profiles from their Juvenile Justice Geography, Policy, Practice & Statistics (JJGPS) project, summarizing important findings across six key areas in juvenile justice. The state profiles provide a snapshot of each state’s most recent data on juvenile arrest and custody issues, as well as information on policy, practice and statistics related to the following topics:

  • Jurisdictional boundaries.
  • Juvenile defense.
  • Racial and ethnic fairness.
  • Juvenile justice services.
  • Status offenses.
  • Systems integration.

Juvenile Justice Announcements

Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice to Host Its Inaugural Dual Status Youth & Probation System Review Symposiums in April 2016 in Boston

The Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, led by Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, has announced that it will host two events this Spring at the historic Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston, Mass. The Dual Status Youth Symposium: Working Together for Our Children (April 5-6) and Probation System Reform Symposium: Advancing Practice, Changing Lives (April 7-8) will highlight juvenile justice system reform efforts and innovative practices that have been implemented in communities throughout the country, in the respective areas of dual status youth and probation system reform. These distinct events will feature the foremost experts on the topics of data and outcome measurement, risk-needs-responsivity screening and assessment, trauma, evidence-based interventions, and inter-agency collaboration. Participants will be given tools to formulate an action plan for realizing improved youth outcomes, as well as needed fiscal savings in their communities. To learn more, please visit:

FY2016 Second Chance Act Grant Opportunity: Implementing Statewide Plans to Improve Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is accepting applications from states interested in effectively implementing a comprehensive, statewide plan to reduce recidivism and improve other outcomes for youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

Announced by OJJDP Administrator Robert Listenbee at “Improving Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: A 50-State Forum”—a convening in November organized by The Council of State Governments Justice Center and OJJDP, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation—this funding opportunity draws on Second Chance Act funds. The grant is intended to help states implement plans to improve outcomes for youth under juvenile justice system supervision that:

  • Establish baseline recidivism rates and provide targets for improvement;
  • Align system policies and practices with the research on “what works” to reduce recidivism; and
  • Demonstrate the support of the governor, legislative and judicial leaders, and representatives of local government, and positions them to assess implementation of the plan and track progress over time. 

States that have developed such plans are eligible to apply, and OJJDP estimates that three states will receive awards up to $1 million each for a 24-month project period. Applications are due by March 8, 2016.

This funding opportunity highlights the need for every state to have a statewide plan to improve outcomes for youth under juvenile justice system supervision and OJJDP’s leadership and commitment to supporting states who have accomplished this goal.

Learn more and apply

Happy 2016 from the juvenile justice staff at NCSL!